A priest and some parents of the abducted students cry during the prayer session organised by Baptist Church
According to a report by The PUNCH, following the abduction of 121 students of Bethel Baptist High School in Kaduna State, the Nigerian Baptist Convention said it had started organising prayers in all Baptist churches in Nigeria and abroad.
The President, Nigerian Baptist Convention, Revd Israel Akanji, said this in an interview with Saturday PUNCH on Friday, which he said was the last day of the Baptist World Alliance.
Akanji said the alliance comprised 127 countries of the world and that the event held via Zoom, a virtual meeting platform.
The clergy said at the event hosted by Brazil, the 127 countries that make up the Baptist World Alliance were informed of the abduction of students of the Bethel Baptist High School.
Asked what efforts the Baptist Church had made so far, the clergy said, “You know that we are a church and once we are in any difficulty, the first point of call is to God in prayer. Therefore, we have been organising prayer all over the Baptist Church in Nigeria and all over the world.
“In terms of publicity (of the abduction), all over Nigeria, it is known. Every state is aware and the Baptist World Alliance is also aware.
“In fact, Elijah Brown, the General Secretary of the Baptist World Alliance, has made a kind of press statement in which he spoke about the abduction of the students in Nigeria. He condemned this act that has been going on in Nigeria and especially the kidnapping of the students of our Baptist High School.”
Despite the attack, Akanji said the Baptist Church would not be intimidated, noting that the Church would continue to provide quality education. According to him, the Baptist Church has for the past 166 years operated secondary schools in Nigeria.
He said, “One thing we have been letting everybody know is that the Baptist denomination has given education to Nigeria since 1855. For 166 years now, the Nigerian Baptist Convention has been providing education.
“Our first institution is the Baptist Academy in Lagos, which is still an institution to reckon with today and has produced great men and women for Nigeria. And the Baptist Boys High School in Abeokuta, Ogun State, produced Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and the late Chief MKO Abiola. These are people who greatly impacted Nigeria.
“Now, in our history, this is the first time in 166 years that a Baptist school would be raided and the students kidnapped. It had never happened. So we believe in the strength of our history. By calling the Almighty God, our students shall be returned to us.”
“So we are thinking that having called on God and on our track record as a denomination providing education for this nation without ceasing for 166 years, we deserve that our students should be brought back,” he added.
Akanji said he had spoken with the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who he said promised to do everything possible to secure the students’ release.
Asked if the Baptist Church would engage Islamic cleric Sheikh Ahmad Gumi in leading mediation talks with the bandits to free the kidnapped students, Akanji said the church would not stop parents from seeking Gumi’s help.
He said, “On the issue of talking to Sheikh Gumi, well, you know that when people are desperate, when people are in trouble because you are talking of a school where 121 students cannot be accounted for… These 121 students have parents and family members who are very concerned.
“In fact, some parents slept in the school compound, praying all night that the children should be back. The parents can do what they like. And if they have been going round looking for one kind of assistance or the other, we will not know the extent but as a church, we have only been speaking to the government and insisting that the government should bring our children back because the security of lives is in the hands of the government.
“I cannot stop anybody who goes to anybody to look for help because as I said, these children have parents, and we cannot stop them. They are at liberty to go wherever they want. But you are asking me as a church and I am saying that in our church, we have not taken that decision that we are going to Gumi. We have not.”
Students of the Bethel Baptist High School, Kaduna were the latest victims of kidnapping in the Northwestern state.
The victims, mostly in Senior Secondary Schools 2 and 3, were kidnapped after bandits around 1 am on Monday invaded their school disguising as military personnel.
A day after the kidnapping, the bandits reportedly reached out to the school management, demanding foodstuffs including 30 bags of rice, 20 bags of beans and 10 kegs of palm oil, to feed their captives.
It was learnt that the students’ parents and school management had raised money to buy the foodstuffs following the bandits’ threats to starve the students if the foodstuffs were not supplied.